Xie Xie: It remains unclear whether this Hell's Kitchen sandwich shop, which bills itself a "project" is actually some kind of wacky experiment or just another entry in the recent race to popularize Asian sandwiches. The shredded braised chicken sandwich and the Vietnamese BBQ beef sandwich were both tasty and included a little something to make it special. The chicken was smothered in a smoked egg salad with cilantro; a tad on the salty side, but flavorful and original. The beef was more evenly flavored but dressed up with basil mayo and carrot kimchee. And despite the frigid weather, I managed to taste "1000 year old" ice cream sandwich. This was caramel ice cream bundled up in two flaky chocolate cookies with a liquid black salted caramel center. Though the taste of caramel was distinctly there, it was an interesting clash between the eyes and the tastebuds —the bizarreness of the black center could really throw you off. While the sandwiches definitely fall on the more expensive side, this is a decent option for a quick, casual pre- or post-theater meal. (See the review at Serious Eats for some images.)
Maialino: Danny Meyer's lastest creation opened not long ago in the Gramercy Park Hotel. I'm happy to report that he's done it again and presented another terrific restaurant, this time a Roman trattoria. The place has been popular with prime reservations being booked a month in advance. On a fluke I managed to grab a Sunday night one. Maialino straddles the upscale-casual atmosphere so that both those dressing up for a special occasion and those going for comfort in jeans can coexist. Service, something even the most upscale of restaurants often fails to nail, is perfect — enthusiastic and helpful, offering suggestions and explanations. Fried artichokes and marinated sardines kicked off the meal just right; the variety bread basket useful in helping to make the most out of everything on the plates. The malfatti pasta with suckling pig ragu (as close as we got to sampling the namesake dish) and arugula was an outstanding first course and the kitchen kindly split the portion before bringing it to the table. The oxtails with carrots and celery filled me with nostalgia; the dish was similar to an oxtail stew my dad made when I was a kid. Three oxtails, the meat tender and just a little bit fatty, provided fuel to survive the cold. And lastly, who can pass up homemade gelato: a mix of fior di latte, dark chocolate and pistachio served with biscotti. Though it may be hard to return, the bar up front is first come, first serve and it seemed approachable enough. Though it serves a different, more abbreviated menu, I'm sure a taste of any food from here will be welcome and satisfying.
Grand Sichuan: This is usually a good Midtown option for Chinese food delivery, but can also be hit or miss. And on this occasion, it really missed. Next time I'll stick to my solid standbys of Gui Zhou chicken, Ma Po tofu or dry and sauteed string beans with minced pork. The crispy shrimp with Sichuan sauce and the plain (not so) spicy chicken with chinese broccoli failed to quell the craving for a good meal.